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GROWTH IN GRACE,
WITH REFERENCE TO
ST. PAUL'S PRAYER FOR THE PHILIPPIANS. (PHIL. i. 9-11.)
Grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour
The substance of this discourse was at first published, as an occasional sermon: and, though the author has bestowed some pains to give it the form of a treatise; he is aware that he has in a measure failed in the attempt, and that the style and manner of a sermon still predominate. But whatever be the form, he most cordially, after many years, sets his seal to the instruction: and he has neither health, spirits, nor leisure to new model it.
THE apostle Paul was evidently a man of strong passions and peculiar sensibility; and being by divine grace exceedingly filled with love to the Lord Jesus, and to the souls of men, his mind was affected with the most lively emotions of joy or sorrow, hope or fear, according to the tidings which he received from the churches with which he had any peculiar connexion. At one time he complains, that "he has no rest in his flesh," "is "filled with heaviness," and "can no longer forbear;" and that "he writes out of much afflic"tion and anguish of heart, with many tears:" at another, he declares, that "he is filled with "comfort, and is exceedingly joyful in all his tribulation, being comforted by the faith of his "beloved children; for now," says he, "we live, "if ye stand fast in the Lord." He seems indeed to intimate, that these were "things which "concerned his infirmities:" and doubtless this sanguine disposition requires much correction and
regulation by divine grace; but, when it is thus tempered, and counterbalanced by proportionable humility, wisdom, patience, and disinterestedness, it may be considered as the main spring of a minister's activity. And as these united qualifications certainly conduced very much to the apostle's extraordinary usefulness; so they render his epistles peculiarly interesting to us, in all our enquiries concerning the best method of promoting the enlargement and prosperity of the church, and the edification of the disciples of the Lord Jesus.
Among other peculiarities of his manner, it especially suits our present purpose to notice the animated glow of joy and affection, with which he addresses his christian brethren. Thus, when writing to the Philippians, he abruptly breaks forth, "I thank my God upon every remembrance of you; always in every prayer of mine for you all, making request with joy." From the same fulness of heart he afterwards adds, "Many walk "of whom I have told you often, and now tell you,
"" even weeping, that they are enemies to the cross
"of Christ; whose end is destruction, whose god "is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame; "who mind earthly things.""
There are, alas! too many professors of the gospel in most places, whose conduct would constrain a believer of far less gracious sensibility than holy Paul, to weep at every recollection of them: but
Phil. iii. 18, 19.
there are others also, on whose account we ought "to bless God without ceasing, whilst we remem"ber their work of faith, and labour of love, and patience of hope in the Lord Jesus Christ."" Every faithful and affectionate pastor, therefore, will find cause for alternate sorrow and joy, while he reflects on the people, among whom he hath been called to labour.
But, while the apostle saw great cause for thankfulness on account of what the Lord had done for the Philippians, yet he was equally disposed to pray for them continually; not only, lest they should decline in zeal and diligence, but likewise that they might make still greater progress in every thing pertaining to genuine christianity. "For God," says he, " is my record, how greatly I long after you all in the bowels of Jesus Christ. "And this I pray, that your love may abound yet “more and more, in knowledge and in all judg"ment: that ye may approve things that are excellent; that ye may be sincere and without offence, till the day of Christ; being filled with "all the fruits of righteousness, which are by "Jesus Christ unto the praise and glory of God."". And in the subsequent parts of the epistle, he copiously and pathetically exhorts them to follow after all those very things, for which he had most fervently prayed in their behalf.
These remarks on the writings of St. Paul may
1 Thess. i. 3.
2 Phil. i. 8-11,